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#54 3/28/07 #5

The Pull List (Click title to go directly to the review) WONDER WOMAN #6 HEROES FOR HIRE #8 HAWKGIRL #62 Indie Jones presents FIRST IN SPACE OGN Indie Jones presents HOLMES #1-4 Indie Jones presents…


Writer: Jodi Picoult Artist: Drew Johnson Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Sleazy G

Y’know, for every decent relaunch to come outta INFINITE CRISIS there’s been at least one clunker, and it’s a damned shame. For every JLA there’s a FLASH, and for every JSA there’s a…well, a WONDER WOMAN. To see characters this well-known and well-loved get the shaft is really disheartening, because the characters and fans both deserve better. Instead, DC really screwed the pooch here, letting some of their biggest characters take the fall when they should have been shining examples of the best the industry has to offer. This should have been at the top of the list of things to not fuck up, y’know? Fans and creators have been saying for years that Diana deserves a place of prominence just like Clark and Bruce in the DCU. Diana finally got a chance to shine, and the new relaunch should have capitalized on that issue #1 to just come out of the gates at top speed, blowing everybody away with how cool and smart and kickass Wonder Woman could be.
Instead we get four issues over the course of…what, 9 or 10 months? With a storyline that got dropped two thirds of the way through? Followed by a one-off with no ties to the earlier storyline, followed by the launch of a new storyline? And we’re still supposed to be interested in this “exciting new direction”? Riiiiight.
And just where, exactly, can we lay the blame for this spectacular failure? I gotta go with editorial on this one. Nuthin’ ruins a character or title quite like lousy decisions on the part of the editorial staff. Let me be clear, though: I’m not saying it’s necessarily Matt Idelson’s fault. I have no idea when he came on board, or how big a role he played in selecting the talent for this title. Landing big names is handled by people awfully far up the food chain, after all. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the one who signed up Allan Heinberg, which is really where things went wrong. Don’t get me wrong—I dig Heinberg’s stuff. Really. I haven’t missed a single episode of “The O.C.” or “Grey’s Anatomy” (allow me to issue a preemptive “go screw” before you even have a chance to say it), and I loved what Heinberg did on YOUNG AVENGERS. But y’know what? YA was terminally late too. So who decided that DC needed a TV writer/producer with a track record of late books so badly that they’d give him a title as important as WONDER WOMAN? And then start publishing the title even though they knew he was at least four months behind from the minute the first issue went to the printers?
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until DC and Marvel stop fucking this up: if you hire some hotshot for a four or six issue story, DO NOT RELEASE #1 UNTIL YOU HAVE THE FINAL ISSUE IN HAND. FUCKING PERIOD. You want Heinberg on the book? Great. When you have the script for the final issue, send the first one to the printers. Since Heinberg already had a rep for being behind schedule because of his TV commitments, the solution is pretty obvious: have somebody else launch the series, and when Heinberg’s done, slot him in at issues 13 through 18.
Cuz, see, here’s the thing: comic writers? They write comics, and a lot of ‘em would kill for a monthly title or two. Instead of throwing Will Pfeifer a single one-off issue to play catch-up because of Heinberg blowing schedules constantly, why not have Pfeifer or Gail Simone write the first year of WONDER WOMAN? Just let ‘em know what Heinberg’s gonna do at #13 and have the regular writer dovetail #11 and #12 right into where he’s going. That’s what professional comics writers do, right? Work hand in hand with the editors, writers, and artists to put out a monthly book? I guess it just chaps my ass to no end that the comics industry continues to trip over itself so it can worship at the feet of every TV, movie or airport novel writer ever to read an issue of ARCHIE as a kid.
Which brings us to WONDER WOMAN #6. Look, all I know about Jodi Picoult is that I saw one of her books in a store window today and it was a picture of two people holding hands—sounds perfect for WONDER WOMAN, no? Maybe I’m being a dick here, and she’s a really good writer. Based on what I saw in this issue, though, I’m not convinced she was the right choice. “Hi, I’m Diana. I’m a battle-hardened Amazonian warrior…who cries because people won’t ‘leave her alone’. Oh, and I’ve never heard of a ‘credit card’, and I don’t know how to pump gas, just like Oprah. Oh, and I’m supposed to be hiding my secret identity, but I changed into Wonder Woman in public three times in 22 pages.”
Maybe it’ll get better. Or maybe, just maybe, hiring a novelist instead of a comic book writer to follow up an aborted run by a TV writer was a CRAP IDEA. Especially since she immediately jumped to using Circe as the villain. Which would be fine, except the aborted storyline ended issue #4 in a double-page splash with Wonder Woman about to throw down with over a dozen villains led by Circe…and we have no idea how it turned out. At all. What’s Circe’s deal right now? Is she looking for revenge over how the last showdown turned out? Did anybody die? Who’s she working with? How are we supposed to know what the hell’s going on with these characters?
The whole situation’s just a train wreck. An aborted storyline that may never be resolved, and now a Wonder Woman who’s written like a weepy 10 year old? And this is the best we can get for a post-CRISIS relaunch of one of the most powerfully iconic characters in comics history? Once again, a vital character and her fans are let down because upper management was more concerned with flashy names to feather their caps than turning out a consistent, high quality product. Who knows: maybe some time a coupla dozen issues down the road the title will finally hit its stride—or maybe it’ll be the next AQUAMAN. What a heartbreaking waste of an opportunity to give Wonder Woman the kind of book she deserves.


Writer: Zeb Wells Penciler: Al Rio Inker: Scott Koblish Publisher: Marvel Reviewer: Jinxo

Okay, I’ll admit it. I originally picked up HEROES FOR HIRE while I was going insane and buying all things CIVIL WAR related. At the time I was just full on into the CIVIL WAR. For all its flaws, I kept thinking, “Hey, don’t judge until ya see where they’re going with this thing.” Then they got to the end and where it all went made me so mad I wanted to scream. Cap’s bad for being an idealist, Iron Man’s side wins while behaving badly and the last issue of CIVIL WAR paints it as a happy ending?!?!? Then after that Captain America gets killed, Iron Man cries a river of self pity…I mean, of regret...over Cap’s death and then 10 seconds later he exploits his death to try and capture some of the rebel heroes. Oh yeah, Miss Marvel also helped by exploiting her friendship with Spider-Woman too. Nice! It’s like every time I buy my Marvel books I should just go, “Well, I wonder how they’ll dishearten me this week.”
But amid all the crap going on, and maybe somewhat because of it, every month I surprisingly find myself really looking forward to stupid HEROES FOR HIRE. I’m not saying it will make comic book history. It isn’t hitting home runs, but for my money it is hitting solid doubles. And with how the Marvel universe in general is going right now that’s pretty damn good for me.
For the record, the Heroes For Hire are Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Black Cat, Shang-Chi, Tarantula, Humbug, former villain Orka, and Paladin (who was fired for selling out the group and Captain America).
I think part of what I like is that the book sort of sidesteps all the CIVIL WAR junk. Okay, they don’t ignore it. The Heroes For Hire are all registered heroes, but at the same time they don’t come across as sellouts. I mean…they’re Heroes for Hire. They’re fighting the good fight for a fee. If you are actually setting up a hero business and getting paid to fight the good fight, well, I actually buy into the idea you’d have to be licensed. It makes sense as opposed to all the other super folks who seem to just be getting drafted into involuntary service. Plus the starting point for the whole book was Misty Knight telling Tony Stark, essentially, just let us do our thing and keep us out of all the heroes hunting down heroes crap.
I also like the fact that the book has a unique slant too. The Avengers are like the all-star hero team. The Fantastic Four isn’t a team, it’s a family. The X-Men are the abused minority bonded together in their common suffering. Heroes For Hire? Heheheh. They’re the hero version of punching the time clock ta get paid! To steal a talkback phrase, “heroes gotta eat!” These aren’t heroes with tons of moralism and angst. “With great power comes great responsibility” isn’t even on their radar. That stuff is for A-Listers. These guys are the D-Listers, the Kathy Griffin of heroes. These aren’t heroes who are family or closely bonded teammates. These are heroes who are together because they get paid to be together. You might like the guy who works in the cubicle next to you or you might hate him. But, really, it doesn’t matter ‘cause you’re both just there trying to earn money for the rent.
If the comic has a flaw it might be that with eight main characters running around you don’t exactly get deep character stuff. When I bought the book, I was looking forward to lots of Black Cat’s attitude. Haven’t gotten that much. Just not the time or space for it. But at the same time I also think that works with the whole working class vibe of the book. Again, these are folks working on the clock so they’re not looking to really bond or charm each other. Like on LAW & ORDER, you don’t know anything about the characters beyond their work as cops and lawyers. With Heroes For Hire, everything ya see is just about the job.
So they’re registration sellouts, you don’t get deep character stuff, they’re punching a clock…how does this add up to fun? It…it just does. Partly, I think because they are so D-List. It’s just so low rent, it gets crazy. They seem to keep fighting the villains who either used to be big or who seem to have been created while a writer was in a fever dream. I mean, a month or so back, they caught the costumed villains in their crappy apartment making breakfast. That’s just so wrong! And if you’re main foe is Heroes For Hire and they kick your ass by flushing your head in your own toilet, dude, that’s a sign YOU’RE D-List and maybe should just get a cubicle job yourself.
Or how about this? While the main team is off fighting the big villains (that would be the guys getting swirlies) the team sends one of their lesser members off on a “joke” mission. Humbug is sort of the Aquaman of bugs, but without all the oodles of awe and respect fish-boy gets. So he gets tasked with helping a little boy who says something has gone wrong with his robot buddy. Of course, it turns out the robot buddy is an insane Doombot. And it turns out the Doombot has been reprogrammed by the Headmen. They’re the fever dream, folks. If you are unfamiliar with them…lets see…Gorilla Man has a human head on a gorilla body, Ruby Tuesday has a woman’s body and a red bowling ball for a head, Chondu who is just a severed head…not exactly world beaters, but with the Doombot, quite more than Humbug was expecting. The result? Humbug ends up as the severed head as Chondu carjacks his body. So now the poor guy is just a head fighting with no backup. Sounds like a bad day job to me. It is just so weirdly wrong that it’s fun.
Issue #8 wraps up Humbug’s predicament. Even as just a head he did have the power to talk to his bug friends and sent them to get backup. This issue starts with the team’s muscle, Orca and Shang-Chi, showing up to help out. As per usual, from page one things don’t go as they should. And for a change, it ain’t all fun and games. Things get serious. And again, that sort of flipping of expectations is what I like in this book. The fact that the big mission turns out to be a relatively simple mission while the joke “robot buddy” mission turns out to be a major spiraling out of control cluster ^%&# is kind of cool.
Finally, one more reason I like these guys. Currently, Iron Man sort of, well, sucks. No sir, I don’t like ‘im. But he helps fund Heroes For Hire. He set them up with some top dollar tech for their base. Then they got that all blowed up. So Tony had to grudgingly pull out the check book and pony up more dough for more tech. That made me very happy. I just really enjoy that this group, which in many ways actually does represent what Tony is trying to do with registration, could be just this constant annoying thorn in Tony Stark’s side. I would be so so happy if Heroes For Hire just over and over, on a regular basis, kept getting all their stuff blown up. And every time Stark would gnash his teeth and write another huge check. Seriously, that would be awesome. Maybe more than Iron Man getting a real comeuppance or a real beating. It would be satisfying to see these heroes acting as a daily annoyance to shell head. Like a rock in his shoe that he just can’t get rid of…EVER. And somewhere Captain America is giggling his ass off.


Writer: Walter Simonson Artist: Renato Arlem Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug

What the hell is this poopin’ crap?
Y’know, I really loved the HAWKMAN series when Geoff Johns was on it attempting the make the Hawkman and Hawkgirl characters cohesive for mass consumption. I liked Palmiotti and Grey’s action-oriented run that beefed up the characters’ rogues gallery. But since then, this book has been god-awful.
Walt Simonson has definitely done some great stories in the past, but this is far from one of them. I think Simonson was such a big name in the industry that the higher-ups at DC are afraid to pat the guy on the shoulder and let him know that it just isn’t working out with this book. The story is an incoherent mess. Hawkman, while returned and healthy in JSA, is nowhere to be found in this book. Hawkgirl is palling around with another uninteresting guy whose sole function is to be the dude in distress. The simple fact that this new pairing has been going on since Simonson has come aboard has left me with an icky feeling, mostly because the forbidden love story between Carter (Hawkman) and Kendra (Hawkgirl) took so long to develop, was established really well by Johns, and continued decently with Palmiotti and Grey that the thought of Kendra hooking up with another man seems trivial and forced. It took over fifty issues for her to get used to the idea of her pairing with Hawkman, yet Carter’s feathers aren’t even molting in the grave and she’s having conflicted thoughts about this new guy. Although the relationship with Damsel In Distress Dude seems to be somewhat platonic, something like that just makes me dislike Kendra as a character. And that’s not really something you want to happen with the title character of a book.
The simple fact is that I don’t think Kendra is a strong enough character to carry the title on her own, especially written the way she has been over the last few years. Maybe the title simply suffers from MOONLIGHTING’s “Dave and Maddie” syndrome where the two characters were interesting up until the point where they actually admitted they loved each other. You can’t really fault Simonson for not knowing what to do with the characters once they hooked up. No writer seems to. Maybe that’s why the forbidden love story is so popular. It’s the conflict and build-up that everyone wants to read about. Once the couple hooks up, often times that cues the end of the story. Hell, Johns even wrote this into his original story arc, literally prophesizing that once Carter and Kendra hooked up, they were destined to die. But killing off Carter was the killing stroke to this series no matter what kind of wonky shit Simonson tries to throw at us. Maybe the series should have just ended then and there.
Now that the creepily pervy Howard Chaykin (whose sole contribution to the series was tossing in the detail that Hawkgirl wears a lace bra underneath her costume) is off the book, we have Renato Arlem on the book, which isn’t a half bad choice of artist. His art has a fluid yet gritty photo-referenced feel that does a good enough job of telling the story.
The problem is the story itself. This month, Hawkgirl battles Apokolips’ Female Furies and a giant Shogun Warrior-like robot in the form of Hawkgirl herself. In the midst of the action, Hawkgirl realizes that her Nth metal wings have been removed. Seconds later, Hawkgirl lets out a shriek, her costume morphs into a more organic look, and bat wings sprout out of her back. But none of these crazy ideas are really delved into in any kind of interesting manner. I admit, a giant robotic version of our hero running rampant through the city is something that could be cool, but this interesting concept is lost in the flat delivery. If I weren’t so disillusioned, bored, and uninterested in the story, I’d almost be enthralled by the sheer bat shit craziness of the tornado-like flurry of “out there” ideas.
But reading this book is like swimming through a tar pit: it took too much effort and left me wondering why I jumped into the damn thing in the first place. All due respect to Simonson’s past comic book contributions and Arlem’s decent artwork, but this series can’t be cancelled soon enough.


Writer/Artist: James Vining Publisher: Oni Press Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

So apparently what we have here is one of them "historically based" dealies from one of them high and mighty "Xeric Award" winners. that's going to impress me. Well, okay, it kinda did. Damn newbies with their "talent" telling interesting stories. I swear they think they own the industry...oh wait...
FIRST IN SPACE is an OGN (Original Graphic Novel for those of you new to the party) about just that: the story of Ham, a chimpanzee that was elected to be the first launched into orbit (not space, big difference) by the fledgling NASA program. And it's also a very competent work considering it is the first published piece (I assume) from our Xeric title bearer. There's a good sense of craft here right from the get go. Using just a handful of pages, Vining sets the table for why these live tests using animal subjects were the lynchpin of the space program at the time, and giving us a quick understanding of the possibly fatal hazards these animals faced to bring the space program closer to its goal of putting human astronauts into the sky. And the story is quick to attach us to our little space monkey by also showing the attachment of his trainer, Airman Beacham.
The events leading up to Ham's eventual success and launch are for the most part very entertaining and oft times humorous too. It's actually kind of fun in a way to sit back and watch as the furry little lice-eater is put in chairs and shot around at Mach speeds, or swung around in a centrifuge at several G's. And obviously a lot of this works because of the more cartoon-like approach Vining took with his art. There’s a modest use of his lines, just enough in his facial features to invoke the right kind of emotion, though he wasn't afraid to use a little exaggeration in them whenever he could to get that extra bit of a laugh out of certain occasions, or simply to the play the "awwww...look at the monkey" endearance card. Very simple, but it works and pushes the book along nicely.
With that said, there are a few things I thought were a little lacking. Mainly, that even though the book does have its fair share of funny bits or tense parts where something goes wrong in order to keep the reader on their feet, I think the majority of the book is presented a little too matter-of-factly. There's a little too much downtime between the parts that are supposed to tug on your emotions or keep you riveted. There's just too much where it's just "monkey gets checked up on by the doctors" and "now the monkey does some training!" and then "monkey is put to bed." It's like the writing couldn't decide if it wanted to be more of an account of the monkey himself, or the program around him, and overall couldn't find a happy medium between the two. It doesn't hurt the book that much, but I can see how some of the more by-the-numbers segments could cause the primary audience of more pre-adolescents and early teens to lose their interest in it from time to time.
But this is a really solid debut nonetheless. Like I said, there's more than enough emotion in this book to keep you invested, it could have just used some better pacing. And there is a lot of merit here in being a historical guidebook as it does give you a pretty good bit of detail into the inner workings of these training programs and what our furry ancestors went through for us to reach the stars. Overall, this is a pretty fun, pretty entertaining book that I would definitely recommend, not only for a personal read, but of course as something you should give to your child (or little brother, niece, nephew, whatever) as something to pull them into the world of comics and to also maybe even educate. Imagine that.
Besides, it has a SPACE MONKEY!! It's a monkey IN SPACE!!! Who the hell in their right minds can resist a book about shooting those tree-swinging banana-gobblers into the great unknown? Someone who doesn't know how to enjoy something good for what it is, that's who.


Story and Art by Omaha Perez Publisher: O-P-P Reviewer: Ambush Bug

This comic has one of those concepts that grabs you and doesn’t let go. Sherlock Holmes has had many different incarnations throughout the years. I’ve always enjoyed tales of the master detective and his noble assistant, but I have to say, I haven’t read a Sherlock Holmes story quite like the one Omaha Perez offers in HOLMES, his four issue miniseries. This version of Holmes and Watson, while looking quite like their typical characters, are more akin to Hunter S. Thompson and Dr. Gonzo than the classical pairing. Holmes’ drug use and dementia shove problem solving aside and take center stage in this book with delightful results.
Perez has obviously done his homework with this book referring to classic Holmes mysteries, but giving them a more madcap and comedic twist. This comic is definitely a farce, but nonetheless, it entertained me thoroughly. It was great fun to follow Holmes and his enabling assistant Watson as he bumbled his way through a mystery, getting into more trouble with the law than actually solving the caper. One of the best details of this deranged tale is the fact that Holmes’ nemesis, Moriarty, doesn’t actually exist in this story. He does have quite a presence as the paranoid detective claims that the villain is behind every obstacle in his path. Throughout the miniseries, Holmes stalks an innocent man, convinced that he is Moriarty. It was fun to see how far Holmes would go to catch his sworn enemy and the lengths Watson would go to cover up his associates wrongdoings. It is a nice touch to see Watson skew the truth in his narration, covering Holmes’ tracks and making him out to be a much greater man than he is in this story.
Artwise, the characters often were a bit stiff, but the wonky perspectives and slightly exaggerated posturings matched the mentally deranged mood of the story. There is an especially effective sequence in issue #2 where Holmes is hallucinating in an opium den. The panels are filled with scratch art rather than normal inks. This negative method of imagery offers a memorable view from the perspective of a person in a drug induced haze. It is an especially effective storytelling tool to help distinguish Holmes’ reality from the real world. The series’ impressive covers also use this method of artistry.
Though purists may scoff at a Sherlock Holmes more like Iggy Pop than the classic sleuth, I found myself laughing out loud at the mentally skewed adventures depicted in HOLMES. It was a treat to read and I hope Perez revisits the stoned out world of HOLMES soon.

POISON THE CURE #1 The New Radio

This is an extremely strong first issue from the guys that gave you THE LAST ISLAND and SOMETHING SO FAMILIAR. Artist Alex Cahill once again wowed me with his great handling of visuals to writer Jad Zaide’s words. This is a departure for Cahill from his silent comics as this story follows the adventures of what may be the last surviving people on earth. This futuristic tale is full of action and the “fight the powers that be” mentality shines through on every page.
Writer Ziade plays to Cahill’s strengths and often leaves it to the artist to tell the story without word balloons. In a medium that often relies way too much on exposition, this issue has faith that the reader is smart enough to follow the storyline with very few textual cues.
I like the designs of the aliens who come upon a decimated Earth. Their technology plugs into their heads. They had a very HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY feel to them. I also like the designs of the cast of human (and robotic) characters. All are easy to tell apart--a good move for a first issue where no one knows these characters yet. The second half of this massive first issue moves quickly as a small group of humans stage a siege that goes horribly wrong.
This issue delivers on all levels; artistically, dramatically, emotionally, and conceptually. The creators behind this book and The New Radio are a small but strong voice in the independent comic scene. Check out a preview to the book here and see what I mean. - Ambush Bug


I am fascinated by behind the scenes stories. When people walk through a museum or leaf through a comic or book and see all of the marvelous words and imagery, some are wrapped up with the aesthetics of the piece. Me? I often find myself wondering what was going on in the artist’s life to make him or her come up with such ideas. I guess that’s why this book interested me so much. ACTION FIGURE follows the real life adventures of the author himself as he struggled as a starving and dreaming artist, stuck in a dead end toy design job and working for “da man.” Maybe it is the fact that I have worked in this type of job before. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a dreamer myself. I don’t know. But I identified with this character and I think a lot of comic book readers will too. It’s one of those stories that is common, but interesting because it is so common and depicts this commonality so well. It’s a slice of life-style book, but has enough honesty and wit to make it stand out as anything but boring. Richard Marcej does a nice job of presenting a nice cast of characters that seem as if they could actually exist. If you’ve ever sat in a cubicle or stayed up way past bedtime and missed out on sleeping dreams in order to pursue dreams of your own, this is a book for you. - Ambush Bug


Jim Zubkavich has made a wonderful surprise of a comic book. This stand alone story is a fantasy adventure that could entertain children as a cautionary tale, yet is intelligent enough to entertain adults. The story follows a young boy whose life is interrupted by a mysterious young girl falling from the sky. Not knowing what to do, this resourceful young man takes the girl home with him and all of a sudden his boring life becomes nothing but. This is a sensitive story about the development of identity and the sacrifices one must make in order to grow up. It is also an inspirational story about taking risks and making the best of what life has to offer. Calling this a “feel good” book has too many negative terms attached to it in this apathetical society we live in, but when I put this book down I felt just that. This tender read looks great too. The panels are animation cell quality and literally pop off the page. Each panel has a crisp three dimensional cartoony feel that gives the book a look all its own. - Ambush Bug


One word that came to mind when I finished this first issue was SOLID. It’s a book with a solid concept. A solid story. And rock solid artwork. This book plays into tried and true action movie staples, but there is a reason these staples are tried and true. They are cool starting points for cool stories. A lone, quiet, and noble warrior looks after a group of reclusive outcasts. A group of militia types attack. And now, lone, quiet, and noble warrior AKA The Gamekeeper is super pissed and more than willing to do what he does best…hunt! Sure it’s simple, but when framed by the hyper-kinetic Guy Ritchie and penned by comic book superstar Andy Diggle, this story shines as something fresh and new. To top it all off, this book also marks a true find in Mukesh Singh, whose artwork resembles Leonard Manco and Ariel Olivetti’s new painterly style. But Singh’s style is all his own. It’s gritty, but crisp. The angles are sharp and the colors vibrant. I’ve liked what Virgin Comics has to offer in varying degrees, but GAMEKEEPER is my favorite of the bunch. - Ambush Bug

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